Growing up in Australia

Growing up in Australia

Dangerous animals, fun expressions and more make up this family’s home – Australia!

The Georges are a homeschooling family of 7 that lives in a caravan and spends most of their time in Far North Queensland, although they are nomads. In fact, many people in their home country are!

Kelly shares that and many other fascinating facts about Australia with us today. Check out her blogs Our Homeschooling Days and Fearless Homeschool for more inspiration from down under!
Growing up around the world: A SimpleHomechool.net series

Tell us a little bit about your family.

Hi! My name’s Kelly, and I’m married to Daniel. We have five children. Gabrielle is 12, Holli and Asha are identical twins and are 11, Rex is 10, and Forrest is 7.

Daniel is studying nursing, I’m studying nursing and running a website, and the kids are all homeschooled and studying the things they’re most interested in.

Tell us a little bit about where you live and how long you’ve lived there.

Right now we’re living in a caravan!

This is not uncommon in Australia, especially for people who have retired – we call them grey nomads. We call ourselves rainbow nomads, as we’re not grey yet, and our caravan is very colourful.

We spend most of our time in Far North Queensland as Daniel is studying here. It’s a beautiful place-it’s the only place in the world where two World Heritage areas meet (Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest).

There’s crystal clear creeks surrounded by lush rainforest, sugar cane and banana farms, and beautiful beaches.

kelly rainforest and reef

What do you think is unique and special about living where you do?

We have a very low population density. Australia averages 3 people per square kilometre, while the United States averages 35.

Most Aussies live on the east coast. That combined with our climate means that we can spend a lot of time in nature (we call it ‘out bush’). There are places you can camp and not be able to hear or see another person. It’s something that many people do regularly-the Indigenous Australians call it ‘going walkabout.’

kellycaravan

We’re also very multicultural. Just under a quarter of Australians were born overseas, and 43% have at least one parent that was born overseas.

Growing up, I had friends who were Croatian, Vietnamese, Greek, Persian, Sri Lankan and Chinese. It was very normal to go over to a friend’s house and their parents not speak English very well, and to get served unidentifiable but absolutely delicious food!

Lastly, we have very unique animals. All of our mammals are marsupials, which means they all have pouches. The platypus and echidna are mammals that lay eggs – and the platypus is venomous too!

When Captain John Hunter sent a platypus pelt and sketches back to England in 1798 they thought he’d sewn different parts of animals together to trick them-they couldn’t believe such a thing existed!

kellyplatypus

Photo by Matt Chan

We have an awful lot of dangerous animals too – we have 21 of the top 25 venomous snakes (including the inland taipan, the most poisonous snake in the world), the most poisonous jellyfish, crocodiles, sharks, bird eating spiders … but it’s actually really safe here, promise!

What languages are spoken there? If it’s different from English, can you help us learn a few common phrases?

English is the only official language, and most Australians aren’t bilingual unless they’re immigrants or the family of immigrants.

There’s even a joke about it:

What do you call someone who knows three languages? Trilingual.

What do you call someone who knows two languages? Bilingual.

What do you call someone who only knows one language? Australian.

We do have our own special version of English though – here are some funny expressions you may hear in Australia.

  • Crikey! and Strewth! Are expressions of surprise.
  • G’day mate, how ya goin? Hi, how are you?
  • Go off like a frog in a sock. Go crazy!
  • Spit the dummy. Have a tantrum.
  • No worries. Don’t worry about it.
  • Ripper! Or You beauty! That’s fantastic!

What are some traditional foods there?

With our short history and immigrant population, we don’t have many ‘Australian’ foods.

Native Australian food, which we call bush food, typically tastes pretty terrible!

Macadamias are delicious, but Davidson’s plum and lilly pilly aren’t fruits you’d eat by themselves, they’re very astringent.

We eat kangaroo, but it’s not common – most of the meat eaten is lamb and beef. But we can get all sorts of exotic food here.

kelly Rusty's market Cairns

We also claim Vegemite, lamingtons, meat pies, and pavlova as ours (but the Kiwis say they came up with pavlova).

Tell us about the climate where you live.

Most of Australia has a great climate – it only snows in the high places, and even then it’s not reliable. Australians who like to ski and snowboard usually fly to New Zealand!

Cairns has a wet tropical climate – it’s hot and wet in summer, and slightly less hot and wet in winter. There’s lot of vegetation and beautiful flowers, and lots of wildlife-including geckos, crocodiles, and giant pythons.

Right now it’s the middle of winter, but we’re still all wearing shorts and T-shirts, and going swimming!

kelly Swimming in Rainforest

What does school look like for the majority of kids where you live?

We have a National Curriculum now, so it’s the same all over Australia. Most kids go to kindergarten at four. School starts with Prep at five years, then grades 1-6 at primary school, and 7-12 at high school.

The day starts around 9, and finishes around 3.30. We start our year in summer, in January, and finish in December. There’s four terms of around 12 weeks, with a two week holiday between each term, and a longer summer holiday.

After that you can go to university, with a degree taking at least three years, do an apprenticeship, or go to TAFE, which trains people in more practical skills, such as hospitality and trade work. 

What does school look like for your family?

We homeschool, so our days suit us! We usually do most of our bookwork on Monday and Tuesday. We really like English, history, and science so we spend the most time on those.

We have a weekly work list on the wall with the work each child needs to do for that week, and they choose when to do it and tick off the work as it’s done.

kellyweekly work list

Right now Friday is for homeschool group, which is always great fun.

kelly homeschool group photo

We typically work until we’re tired, usually about 6-8 weeks, then have a few weeks off until we’re ready to get back into it again. Our work all gets done in the end without too much stress.

Are there any special festivals or traditions you’d like to tell us about related to where you are visiting?

Australia doesn’t have many festivals. We have a short history, and a somewhat shameful one, in how we’ve treated our native people.

Many people celebrate Australia Day on Jan. 26, which is the day the First Fleet landed in 1788, but other people call it Invasion Day and refuse to celebrate, as this was the day the Indigenous Australians started to lose their homeland.

ANZAC day is April 25th, and it commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli in 1915. There are services in every town to remember all the Australians who have served, fought and fallen in all of the wars. We usually go to the dawn service.

If you moved countries, what would you miss most?

The weather, and the outdoor lifestyle. We’re outside for most of the day, every day.

It’s also very casual-people don’t care too much about what they look like. Everyone just wears shorts and T-shirts, and it’s normal to go out barefoot. When we went to Melbourne recently we kept forgetting to wear shoes, and it’s not normal to go barefoot there – we got a lot of funny looks!

I think I’d also miss the Aussie sense of humor – if you’re friends with someone you tease them a lot. I have to be careful with my friends who come from other countries, as they might think I’m being mean!

Do you have a favorite book that takes place in your region/country?

We also love Australian poetry. Our favorites are:

Fast Facts about Australia

australia flag

Thank you so much, George Family!

About Kelly George

Kelly George is a married mum to five adventurous children. None have ever been been to school, and they all like it that way. She runs Our Homeschooling Days and Fearless Homeschool while travelling Australia in a rainbow caravan. One day she’ll go back to writing assignments instead of homeschooling articles and finish the last five subjects in her nursing degree.

Comments

  1. This was awesome! My kids and I are constantly saying how much we would love to move to Australia. The climate and landscape are so glorious. You are very blessed. 🙂
    Shelly’s latest post: How to Occupy Your Little Ones During Homeschool

  2. So much fun!! I’ve always wanted to go to Australia! Thank you for taking me there! Or at least for the cool snapshot!
    Erin’s latest post: Summer Stories – Trixie Belden

  3. Wait a minute… Does this mean you only do math one day per week?! If so, that’s really cool!!

  4. How fun! I spent some time in Australia several years ago and loved the country and the people 🙂 I would add pumpkin to your list of traditional foods–between pumpkin soup and using pumpkin with a beef roast in place of carrots, I learned lots of new ways to enjoy it as a vegetable! Another food difference is that you don’t often mix savory and sweet foods, right? So my campers at one camp thought I was absolutely crazy to eat peanut butter AND jam on my toast 🙂 (Instead of the baked beans they offered 😉 )

    • Not everyone eats as much pumpkin as us?! Honestly, I didn’t know that. I made bread yesterday with pumpkin in it, and pumpkin scones are pretty normal. There you go, i’ve learned something too! And no, peanut butter and jam isn’t a common mix, but hot chip sandwiches with sauce are………….is that strange enough? Or Vegemite on celery?
      Kelly’s latest post: Learning through Unschooling: A Day in the Life

  5. I would love to hear more about your nomadic lifestyle. Where do you live? Who is in your caravan and how did that particular group become a cohesive unit, if at all? Why did you choose this lifestyle and what do you do to maintain this? I love that you spend so much time outdoors and have given yourselves the moniker “Rainbow caravan!”

    • Hi April,
      We say that ‘home is where we park it’. We don’t have a house, or even a town that we’ll settle in when we’ve had enough of travelling. Just our family is in our van, and we’re a cohesive unit because we have to be! 😛
      We chose this lifestyle because we love change and adventure, and living in a house never provided that for us.
      Thanks for your reply and questions April! Feel free to ask anything else you may be wondering.
      Kelly’s latest post: Learning through Unschooling: A Day in the Life

  6. The weather is definitely one of the great things about Australia! We live in Melbourne, so we’re not exactly swimming in the middle of winter, but we can still get outside most days to do schooling in the bush. We have just started homeschooling our little girl in kinder and we live on 4 acres in the mountains on the outskirts of Melbourne. We are outside every opportunity we have. She has only just turned 3 but she can already spot the kookaburras before I do, follows the echidna around the orchard watching it in fascination, and runs around the paddock trying to catch the magpies. She also knows how to plant trees, how to correctly plant garlic (she’s watched her mama), and will unearth all kinds of creatures to examine such as worms, pill bugs, millipedes, and skinks (small lizards) showing no fear at all!! I love this lifestyle and this climate for her to grow up in!!

    • We left Melbourne yesterday morning Kim! We were in the Dandenongs with family, so probably right around the corner from you. Emergency trip to buy a new car, but we’re back in Queensland now. I complain about the weather there but you’re right, it’s pretty good-there’s no frozen pipes or shovelling snow or blizzards! I love the sound of your lifestyle too-we’ve had acreages and I loved watching my kids connect with nature and gain practical skills. It’s a beautiful thing.
      Kelly’s latest post: School or Homeschool, your child’s education is ALWAYS your responsibility

  7. Sounds wonderful! My boys and I enjoyed this tremendously!

  8. Wow!! I feel pure envy!! It sounds like the perfect place to live and unschool!!
    I have a question though, aren’t there native/aboriginal languages in Australia? Are non-aboriginals able to say anything in them? (I mean simple things like hi, thanks…) I’m really interested in languages!!

  9. Fiona Clarke says:

    Hi Kelly
    Your homeschooling journey and family life sounds fun and so full of adventure. We are a homeschool family across the ditch and for the record, of course the pavlova was our invention!! *smile*!! Seriously, I say whoever came up with the idea deserves a medal, one of my favourite desserts.
    Thanks for sharing with all of us.
    Fiona

  10. Fiona Clarke says:

    You have certainly lived a diverse life Kelly. Sometimes I wish we could just pack up for awhile and head off in a campervan around NZ. Homeschooling allows such great flexibility doesn’t it?
    I will look out for you in the future at Homeschooling groups. All the best with the nursing training for you and your husband.
    Fiona

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